10 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude This Holiday Season


Image: A ceramic heart ornament that reads, "I am grateful"

The holidays are a joyous time to gather with loved ones, celebrate over tantalizing table spreads, and create long-lasting memories together. Yet it can also be a stressful season for many of us.

Whether you’re facing a social calendar full of events, hosting big holiday gatherings, volunteering at school, chauffeuring your kids to activities, or having out-of-town guests stay with you, the holidays can get chaotic. Instead of letting all these things drain your energy, let’s take a step back and focus on all that we’re grateful for during this special time of year.

Gratitude Improves Well-being

Experts agree that one of the best ways to beat stress is by cultivating gratitude. Studies have shown that people who express gratitude regularly are happier, healthier, and more satisfied with their lives.

Practicing gratitude can lead to a positive shift in your mindset so that you’re more focused on the good in your life versus the stressors or what’s missing from it. As a result, gratitude and a more positive mindset can lead to improved mood and mental well-being.

Cultivating a sense of gratitude within your family during the holidays can help everyone feel more connected to one another and facilitate a happier and less stressful season.

Image: A gratitude journal

10 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

The holidays are the perfect time to ramp up our gratitude efforts, and there are plenty of ways to do so. In honor of National Gratitude Month, here are some ideas, many of which you can also encourage the kids to participate in.

  1. Keep a daily gratitude journal: Whether you prefer to write one thing you’re grateful for and elaborate on it — or list out three items daily — make it a practice to reflect on and write down things you’re thankful for each day.
  2. Set up a gratitude jar: Write all the different things you’re grateful for on Post-it notes, fold them, and place them in the jar. Anytime you feel down, pull one or two out to remind you to stay positive. It could also be fun to make this a family activity, where everyone has their own jar, or you have a collective family jar.
  3. Express gratitude to loved ones regularly: Find any opportunity to say thank you or express gratitude for the contributions others make. For example, thanking the kids for helping around the house or telling your husband how grateful you are for his handy skills will help everyone feel more appreciated and willing to collaborate. You could also create a practice where the family gathers to share one thing they’re grateful for each day. 
  4. Write a gratitude letter to someone special: Pick a special person and write them a note thanking them for being in your life and expressing gratitude for all the ways they make it better. Then, mail it or deliver it in person and read it to them.
  5. Volunteer, perhaps as a family: If your kids are old enough, consider volunteering as a family over the holidays. Giving back to others who are less fortunate can nurture gratitude for everything we are already blessed with.
  6. Savor the simple things: The holidays can carry high expectations and pressure with them, resulting in stress and disappointment if things don’t go as planned. One way to mitigate this is by taking time to appreciate the simpler things that make up your day – that morning run or cup of coffee, the silence after the kids go to bed, or the beauty of nature, for example.
  7. Fight friction with love: It’s no secret that the holidays can ignite some good old family drama. So, when someone rubs you the wrong way, instead of building resentment, think about the positive qualities this person has and why you’re grateful for them being there in the first place.
  8. Get into the gift-giving spirit: Get the kids involved in hand-making gifts you can give to friends and family over the holidays or sign up to be Secret Santa for a family in need. Putting work and love into the things we do for others can help us feel more satisfied with life and make gifts more meaningful.
  9. Turn to gratitude when faced with a challenge: When your patience is tested, or you are facing a challenge, instead of stressing out, reframe your mindset by drawing your attention toward all the things that are going right. Remember, take a breath and be grateful that the situation isn’t worse than it is.
  10. Post about gratitude on social media: If you’re on social media, work on cultivating gratitude between you and your online community. Post what you’re grateful for and encourage others to do the same.

There’s a wooden frame in my hallway that reads, “This prayer was different… a humble and overwhelming urge to say thank you for all the blessed things going right.” It’s a constant reminder to practice gratitude for all the blessings in my life — especially when I’m faced with challenges.

How are you practicing gratitude this holiday season?

With gratitude,

Updated November 2023